Feb 24, 2015

A Lifetime of Dreaming- in Thirty-Two Pages.

I'm the first to admit that I'm averse to labeling anything as "favorites". There are entirely too many wonderful things in the world to start ranking one better than the next. When it comes to books I often find something of value in a title whether it suits my personal taste or not. If I can't say something positive about a book, I refrain from saying anything at all. 
I'll admit, though, that I approach certain "types" of picture books with a wary eye and anticipate disappointment. 
A case in point: picture books in which a child character grows to adulthood (and some mature insights or convenient answers) within those few colorful pages. 
I'm popping in for this short post to recommend a recent release that takes on the challenge of aging a character without losing real story excellence and comes out a winner. 
Harcourt Brace and Company, January, 2015

And that winner is: A VIOLIN FOR ELVA, by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Tricia Tusa.
The synopsis from Indiebound says: 

"A young girl longs to play the violin in this lyrical story that shows it's never too late to pursue your dream. More than anything, Elva wants a violin--but her parents say no. So she pretends. When she should be brushing her teeth, Elva rehearses for recitals. When she should be learning subtraction or going to sleep, she imagines playing all the music in the world. The years pass, but Elva never forgets her childhood wish, and so one day she takes a deep breath and follows her heart . . ."

Here's what I had to say about it on GOODREADS:

This is the rarest of rare picture books- one that features a child growing into adulthood yet retaining appeal and eliciting empathy from even the youngest child. Elva's yearnings for music, and for learning/playing the violin in particular, are a metaphor for any unfulfilled personal passion. What might have been a maudlin or adult-centric "don't wait too late" life lesson is told with graceful prose, rhythmic repetitions, and a strong sense of seasons and time (think a kid-friendly version of "Turn-Turn-Turn"). That text combines perfectly with illustrator Tricia Tusa's childlike take on adulthood, including simple-lined identifiable facial expressions, body postures, and winning details. When Elva is finally making music on a double page spread, her feet, in white anklets, come right out of her Mary Jane shoes in an ecstasy of ageless bliss. Readers of any age will celebrate her dream-come-true moment.


  1. Am coming here after several months, Sandy! Loved reading about this book!

    1. So lovely to have you stop by again, Richa! This one breaks many rules (self-imposed rules, that is) and works perfectly, IMO. Hope you get a chance to read it soon.

  2. Great post! Agree that a book that shows the character age is very hard to do well. This one sounds lovely. Can't wait to read it.


    1. Hi, Todd! When you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think! And take time to examine the way the illustrator enhanced the child-like quality of the aging character without making her the least bit childISH. There are some kids that seem like old spirits in young bodies. Then there are adults who feel like they never lose their inner child. In this case the main character is a bit of both, and I couldn't enjoy her more. Thanks for stopping by.


Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.